By working together, we must lay a conscious basis for the next step in our human evolution: the world community. Julien Huxley, first Director General of UNESCO
"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." begins the preamble of the UNESCO constitution. It goes on to say "Ignorance of each other's ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war. Therefore, the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty which all the nations must fulfil in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern."
In the light of Nazi and Fascist propaganda and racism and inspired by the belief in human solidarity and understanding, the founders of UNESCO placed their hopes on the role of education and cooperation. Henri Bonnet who had been chief of the intellectual cooperation section of the League of Nations and in 1939 one of the founders of the Association of World Citizens, was active during the Second World War in England in proposing a specific UN agency for education and cooperation among intellectuals. His efforts were actively supported by the British Council of Education in World Citizenship.
As there were many exiled leaders from Nazi-occupied Europe living in England during the war, in November 1942, a Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) was held in London. This CAME meeting included nationals of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia. In 1943, other States, including the USA joined CAME's activities. UNESCO was fundamentally shaped by these activities with the emphasis on the reform of education, the role of books and periodicals, and intellectual cooperation.
As UNESCO was being established in 1946, the US representative proposed "enlightenment of the citizens of the world" as the core of the education program. The chairman of the US delegation was the poet and author Archibald MacLeish, and he set out the necessary synthesis of peace, advancement-of-knowledge, and common-welfare of mankind premises of the organization. "Peace means something more than a mere absence of overt hostilities. It means a condition of solidarity, harmony of purpose, and coordination of activities in which free men and women can live a secure and satisfactory life - a condition in which war is affirmatively prevented by the dynamic and purposeful creation of a decent and human relationship between the peoples of the world - a condition in which the incentives to war are neutralized by the social, spiritual, and economic advances created and achieved."
Thus a crucial aim of UNESCO was to breakdown the barriers of ignorance, mistrust, and hostility and to accelerate international communication, thus promoting peaceful relations.
The two chief motors of UNESCO's efforts to promote peaceful relations are education and communication. René Maheu, a strong Director General from 1959 to 1974 said " Motivation for education exists, and it wells up from mass yearnings. This demand for education is universal and irresistible for it is directly linked to the triple appeal of national development, national freedom, and individual dignity."
A later Director General from 1974 to 1987, Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow stressed communications. "Communication is at the heart of all social intercourse. Whenever men have come to establish regular relations with one another, the nature of the systems of communication created between them, the forms these have taken and the measures of effectiveness they have attained have largely determined the chances of bringing communities closer together or of making them one, and the prospects for reducing tensions or settling conflicts wherever they have arisen."
The Association of World Citizens has always considered UNESCO a strong partner in the development of a cosmopolitan spirit based on freedom, dignity and integrity of the person.